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The Brief: July 31, 2015

Steve McCraw, the director of Texas' Department of Public Safety, faced a grilling from lawmakers Thursday over the arrest of Sandra Bland.

Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw waits to testify at the House Committee on County Affairs on the Sandra Bland incident on July 30, 2015.

The Big Conversation

Steve McCraw, the director of Texas' Department of Public Safety, faced a grilling from lawmakers Thursday over the arrest of Sandra Bland.

Bland's death — she was found hanged in her cell three days later — has received national attention and was the subject of a House Committee on County Affairs hearing yesterday on state trooper training and jail standards.

But as the Tribune's Terri Langford and Liz Crampton report, the committee also "seemed to unload on [McCraw] the public's collective outrage about Bland's treatment" by Brian Encinia, the trooper who arrested her in Prairie View and was later reassigned to desk duties.

"What will you do to improve or do something about the training of the troopers? It's clear to me, or at least to most people that the trooper was a little aggressive," said [committee chairman state Rep. Garnet] Coleman, D-Houston. "Tell him don't ever throw a black woman to the ground again."

For the most part, McCraw submitted to the dressing down by lawmakers, avoiding specific answers to questions about training that could reveal a deficiency in how troopers are groomed.

"At the conclusion of this investigation you will have the answers," McCraw told the committee. He also expressed condolences to the Bland family and spoke of the "tragedy" of Bland's death.

McCraw conceded that Encinia was "rude" and had an opportunity to de-escalate during the course of Bland's arrest. "But he escalated." As for Encinia's continued employment, McCraw would only say: "We do have due process we have to deal with."

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Perry No Longer the Bright, Shiny Object, by Ross Ramsey — Four years ago, Republican primary voters seemed eager to embrace Rick Perry, but his lack of preparation undermined his presidential campaign. Now he's prepared, but the voters' eyes are on other candidates.

Straus Settles into National Role for Campaign Group, by Patrick Svitek — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is settling into a new position that promises to grow his political profile outside Texas.

Texas vs. the Feds: A Look at the Lawsuits, by Neena Satija, Ryan McCrimmon and Becca Aaronson — Here's an updated look at the lawsuits filed by Texas against the Obama administration.

To Build Student Housing, A&M Looks to the Private Sector, by Matthew Watkins — Texas A&M is partnering with an Irving company and a nonprofit corporation to add 3,400 beds' worth of housing near campus. School officials estimate it could generate hundreds of millions of dollars.

Perry's Debate Berth Up in the Air, by Patrick Svitek  Former Gov. Rick Perry is on the cusp of qualifying for his party's first 2016 presidential debate, his highest-profile opportunity yet to show he has learned from his disastrous 2012 campaign.

Texans Asked to Temporarily Curb Electricity Use, by Jim Malewitz — The operator of the electric grid that covers most of the state called for Texans to temporarily curb their electricity use for a few hours on Thursday afternoon as record-breaking demands strain the state’s energy resources.

Patterson to George P. Bush: Focus Less on "Derriere," by Jim Malewitz — Upset about the way a recent state audit painted the agency he lead for 12 years, former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is jabbing his successor, George P. Bush, for failing to push back against the audit’s findings.


Kasich in, Perry out, and Trump Trump Trump: The latest on next week’s debate, The Washington Post

Why might religion be taking back seat in Rick Perry campaign?, Christian Science Monitor

Ted Cruz unloads on Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Politico

Mitt Romney: Ted Cruz’s Iran rhetoric crosses the line, The Dallas Morning News

Far fewer without health insurance in Texas, Houston Chronicle

Large immigrant smuggling group busted, San Antonio Express-News

Health screenings for young athletes won't include heart checks, Houston Chronicle

NEISD employees told not to discuss Robert E. Lee name debate, San Antonio Express-News

A battle is brewing over state House District 118 seat, San Antonio Express-News

TCU, student at odds over comments on social media, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Baylor cancer program receives elite national status, Houston Chronicle

Medics seeing new dangerous drug concoctions, Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Quote to Note

“I can’t speak to the motive of the current Commissioner for apparently endeavouring to drop his predecessor 'in the grease,' but I would suggest he put more focus on doing his job and less on covering his derriere.”

— Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson criticizes George P. Bush, his Republican successor, for not speaking out against an audit of the General Land Office that found "significant weaknesses." Patterson led the agency for 12 years. 

News From Home

•     We've added big national names to our busting-at-the-seams lineup of Texas Tribune Festival speakers. For only one more week, tickets are available at early-bird ticket prices. Get 'em while they're cheap!

•     The latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT is out. Jay Root and Ben Philpott break down the campaign announcement speech of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and talk to Harry Enten, senior writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•      A Conversation with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor on Sept. 4 in Austin

•      A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

•      The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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